00-05 Idioms as rubicons


Idioms as “rubicons”

An idiom is a group of words with a figurative meaning that you cannot to deduce from these words' literal definitions. Maybe that does not sound academic enough but it’s true.

Since 2003 we have been collecting idioms, phrasal verbs and proverbs from BBC and CNN programs. This is why we sometimes deviated from this practice picking up useful expressions from other channels, including those from the countries where English is not a spoken language: DW (Deutsche Welle) and RT (formerly Russia Today). Let us start from Fox News, though.

If he does wanna run in 2024, he can’t be seen as a sore loser.

Sore loser is a person who becomes very upset or angry when he or she loses a game, contest, etc. In 2016 Trump won but Bill Maher still called him a “sore winner.” 

He’s a sore winner.

This usage of the word “sore” is not as frequent, as in phrases describing health problems. Watch the dialog from Alien 3 science fiction movie:

How are you feeling? – Sore throat, sick to my stomach.

Sore throat is a condition in which your throat is red and feels painful, especially when you swallow

Sick to the stomach means either “likely to vomit” or “feeling very upset, worried, or angry”. You should also know what “cold sore” means: a group of fluid-filled blisters on the lips caused by a herpes virus.

Deutsche Welle anchors also use idioms:

Fourth generation mobile service licenses are going under the hammer today in the German city of Mainz. It’s Europe’s first 4G auction, and it’s expected to generate up to six billion euros for the German state.

In 2019 English Patient language school tried to establish business collaboration with RT. First we tried to study the language used by the reporters and found out a lot of interesting phrases. Here is a little RT collection of short videos:

But Scaramucci now takes the cake after holding on to the title of communications director for only 10 days.

There was irony in this phrase, of course because this is what ‘take the cake’ means:

Now we can only wait and see if the Trump administration’s revolving door will claim another victim.

Revolving-door as an adjective means: characterized by a frequent succession (as of personnel) or a cycle of leaving and returning.

It feels like a bit of Deja-vu at this point. 
The Trump administration has seen a number of positions cut short.
It’s time to ignore middle-of-the-road signals.

This is probably why the band chose its name. Listen to the beautiful old song with a terrible singer’s voice:

At least one phrase in this song is worth memorizing: there’s something about the weather (people) that everybody loves.

The financial merry-go-round lifts only the 1 percent up.

RT can be characterized more like a propaganda tool rather than journalism. It is so-called “soft power” of the Russian state. We used to hear the same narrative in Brezhnev’s era:

The dollar is toast and the US is toast, the population is toast, the manufacturing capacity is toast.

To certain extent all media are used for propaganda. But not all media are financed by the state. This article is already ten years old, but you will learn a lot of interesting facts about RT:


Ask yourself a question: is it possible to work for RT upon graduation from Russian universities? If you know the right answer then you know why they follow this HR logic of hiring people: "Like many of RT’s journalists, Minkovksi is a Russian immigrant, born in Moscow, raised and educated in the West, and hired by the network for her fluency in both English and Russian—she is someone who could be both Russia’s ambassador to the West as well as its Sherpa into the Western mind".

Let us focus more on linguistic aspects, though:

The American financial system crossed the Rubicon.

This idiom has an ancient origin which we will discuss after watching this video: 

Remember when Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he counted on the popular support of the people of Rome to support him and to celebrate him as a war hero. He had killed like half the population or third of the population of Gaul and had all the riches that he looted from there. So he was going to give it to the people, and the people, of course, adored all the free goods that he had stolen from the Gaul.


Gaul =  Gallia (Latin)

To cross the Rubicon means to make a decision or take a step that commits one to a specific course of action from which there is no turning back. The expression cross the Rubicon refers to a decision made by Julius Caesar. In 49 B.C., Julius Caesar was the governor of Gaul, which meant he had to give up his power in Rome. He was expressly forbidden by the Roman Senate to bring his troops back to Italy. When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, a stream that separated Gaul from Rome, he sparked a civil war. When crossing the Rubicon, Caesar famously uttered, “The die is cast,” as he knew where this decision would inevitably take him. Note that Rubicon is capitalized as it is a proper noun, related phrases are crosses the Rubicon, crossed the Rubicon, crossing the Rubicon.

This is the beauty of learning English through the prism of modern and ancient history. Enjoy the episode from the movie Julius Caesar:

How long ago did Sulla ride in the town with his army, breaking the sacred Roman law stating that no man must bring armed men past the Rubicon into Rome? How fresh in your memory does bloodshed have to be for you to show caution? - Caesar has done more for Rome than any other general in its history. How do you respond? You strip him of his consulship, in his absence, without explanation. He's more than doubled the size of Rome in the last eight years and what do you ask him to do? Lay down his arms. It is not Caesar, who is the criminal. It is this Senate! - This Senate represents the people of Rome. - This Senate represents its own interests. - Sulla said almost the very same thing. - If he said it, he was right. But the difference between Sulla and Caesar is: The people feared Sulla, Caesar they love. - You know nothing of the people's feelings. - You're right, I don't. Let me ask them. 
People of Rome, I come to you with questions from Caesar! He needs to know what you want so he can better serve your needs. The Senate says they represent the people, but the Senate wants Caesar to lay down his arms, and return to Rome as a man, not as a soldier. And when he arrives, the Senate will find him guilty of crimes against the state. Caesar's crime is spending eight years in battle, outside of Rome, with none of the comforts we all take for granted and with a daily threat to his life. Why? So he can bring wealth to the Roman people. Temples, libraries, holidays and games are all funded by Cesar's levies in Gaul, yet what do they think in the Senate? They think he's doing this for personal gain. I ask you: If he's doing this for private gain, why does he stay in Gaul? Why does he live in a tent? I know why he does it. He does it so we Romans can live well. Whatever these men may think, some of whom have never been up on a horse's back, I have never known a man tougher on the enemies of Rome, nor gentler to its friends. When I call myself a Roman, the thing that makes me most proud, is to share that title with one other man! A man whom it has been my privilege to fight beside, a man who has shown time and again. ...that he loves his own life less than he loves yours! His name is Gaius Julius Caesar!
We must do something, Pompey. Caesar could march on Rome at any time. - I'm not going to wait for him to come to us. I'll gather our troops and attack him before he sets foot in Rome. I'm going to wipe him and his legions off the face of the earth. - Caesar! Caesar! Caesar! Caesar! - Men, we have two choices: we can be slaughtered by the army Pompey is amassing against us, or we can fight for our lives, just as we've done every day for eight years! I've made my decision! I'm going to Rome! I'm going to cross the Rubicon! Will anyone be coming with me? - Yeah! To Rome! Let the dice fly! - My legions from Spain should sail to Ostia from the West. The Thracians will come to us from the North, and from the East the Macedonians. - Caesar is on his way to Rome! - How far is he? - Four days from here. - That's impossible! - I heard it from Bibulus himself. Caesar has passed the Rubicon. - We must leave Rome. We cannot defend it without troops. We'll go to Greece. We amass what strength we can, and then we take him in Rome itself. I only hope we don't arrive too late and find the bodies of our friends on the Senate steps!


This is an illusion that it is possible to avoid political issues learning the world language. Those who try to concentrate solely on topics like “food” or “business” will inevitably fail. Read more about the proof of this statement here https://www.englishpatient.org/share/modules/lyTrOV2jCh

Interest in the “Rubicon” idiom triggered an avalanche of useful facts, ideas, words and phrases. Rubicon was just a small shallow river. Ahead was the Capital of The World – Rome. You will have to cross thousands of “rubicons” on your way to the knowledge. For instance, you have to develop enough curiosity to understand the story behind this question:

How come you’re still alive and why is the book called Thatcher’s Spy?

Or understand the play on words in this video:

However, isn’t it a bit unreasonable to expect that the right-wing activists should be allowed to walk around government buildings locked and loaded?

This will help but only a little bit https://www.englishpatient.org/share/i/to-lock-and-load

The following abbreviations could help you start unraveling these enigmas: NRA and IRA.

Cross the Rubicon!


Sore loser's speech is here

Специализируемся на развитии навыков говорения и понимания реальной речи на слух. Используем только оригинальные материалы.